The new Chord Electronics Qutest DAC, marketed by Chord Electronics as a HUGO2 minus the headphone amp and battery, the dinky Qutest also manages to shed £600 from it's price tag. This has proven very popular indeed with us Audio T staffers.
Such an animal was suggested when the original HUGO was released, so I'm claiming full credit here! This means we can now enthuse about the Chord Electronics HUGO2 headphone amplifier and DAC performance to those customers who think that £1800 is too hefty a price tag and had no intention to take a DAC out into the wild - so why should they pay for stuff they'll never use anyway?
I'm happy to report that you don't have to. The Chord Electronics Qutest DAC is terrific.
Used in between an Arcam rPlay streamer and an Arcam A39 integrated amplifier, with Dynaudio Special 40 speakers, the presentation is wildly improved. AC/DC's Malcolm Young's repetitive rhythm guitar riff on "Thunderstruck" is way more thrilling (I want to turn it up!), deadmau5's synth bass on the track "SeeYah" is faster, tighter and forms a 3D solid roller of sound across the stage. Any digital hardness entirely gone. Initially the presentation appears quieter, then one realises that it's the absence of amplified noise. Norah Jones' voice on "Cold, Cold, Heart" is soft, dusky and alluring. It's no longer a voice in space, it's etched in place and sounds as if it's issuing from a human face (if that isn't too weird). Jones' piano playing is shown to be remarkably gentle; you can feel her just touching the keys rather than striking them. Glorious. The spacial information in the Scream Team Remix of Massive Attack's "Teardrop", rather than being out to the sides and above the speakers a bit, now envelopes you in sound. Music behind you from just the two speakers? Oh yes. I've only encountered that before in some very serious kit indeed.